What to Say (and crucially what NOT to say)
When Your Partner Has PND
You expect a lot of joy and a little stress when your baby arrives. You expect a learning curve and some moments of panic. And you’re certain that both of you will be so filled with love that everything will just fall into place. And that’s what makes the darkness of postnatal depression (PND) that much more pernicious. In what’s meant to be one of the brightest moments of your life, someone you loved enough to make a baby with is falling into a bleak psychological hole and it feel like there’s nothing you can do to help.
As a sufferer of PND I can only imagine how extremely frustrating it is to live with someone’s who’s depressed, especially when you have a new baby. I saw my husband’s confusion, not knowing what to do as he didn’t know what might help or might not. Not knowing who this new, slightly unhinged version of his wife was.
I’m hoping as a sufferer of PND, these suggestions will help the two of you work through this tough time together. But remember you must do whatever feels right for you, your partner and family. Remember, you cannot fix this. You cannot make this go away. No matter how hard you try or how much you love your partner, recovery takes longer than you want it to. You must be willing to wait this out with her.
Keep these important points in mind:
Research has shown us that a woman’s depression will improve markedly with the consistent support of a significant other. The longer you pretend that the depression will go away by itself and deny it is really happening, the longer her recovery will take. The more you expect of her, the greater your demands, the more difficult her recovery will be. You must take this very seriously. You have much more power to affect the outcome of how you both feel, than you might think you do. Your partner will get better. Things will settle at home, in time. You will have your partner and your life, back – maybe not soon, but it will happen.
What to say:
Before I tell you the things that she needs to hear, here’s what you’re up against:
If you tell her you love her… she won’t believe you.
If you tell her she’s a good mother…she’ll think you’re just saying that to make her feel better.
If you tell her she’s beautiful… she’ll assume you’re lying.
If you tell her not to worry about anything… she’ll think you have no idea how bad she feels.
If you tell her you’ll come home early to help her… she’ll feel guilty.
If you tell her you have to work late… she’ll think you don’t care.
But you can:
Tell her you know she feels terrible.
Tell her she will get better.
Tell her she is not alone.
Tell her she is doing all the right things to get better (therapy, medication, etc.).
Tell her she can still be a good mother and feel terrible.
Tell her it’s okay to make mistakes; she doesn’t have to do everything perfectly.
Tell her you know how hard she’s working at this right now.
Tell her to let you know what she needs you to do to help.
Tell her you know she’s doing the best she can.